Why I’ll Teach My Kids about All Kinds of Families
I was recently listening to Tom Ashbrook on NPR discuss the new HBO series, Looking, and its take on gay life today. Despite only catching part of the conversation, it got me thinking about the importance of teaching kids to know about all kinds of diverse families – bi-racial, blended, multi-generational, gay, lesbian. It is important (very important) for my children to be tolerant and accepting of all humans for who they are inside. But the real reason is that they simply need to know – so it’s not a secret, not something they have to figure out on their own, just something that is part of the world.
When I was in 4th grade, my parents divorced. My dad was gay but I didn’t know it. I wouldn’t know it, not for sure, for many years. It was the 80’s and my dad was trapped by society’s perception of gays and what he thought my siblings and I would think of him. So he kept us in the closet. My mom, who always smoothed the way for my dad when it came to dealing with the hard kid stuff, made it clear that this was a conversation my dad must do on his own. He never did.
It took me through high school and college to really figure it out. My siblings never spoke of it. We all suspected in our own way. And slowly it just was known. My dad was in a committed relationship, we shared holidays together, we became part of his world.
As an adult and parent, I can accept his decision. But I still hurt. I’m hurt that he didn’t realize how fine (more than fine) I would be that he was happy and out of the closet. And saddened that it took me years to really know my dad, to be part of his life, to love the love of his life, and to be part of this amazing family that he built around himself. All to lose him unexpectedly a few years later. I think often that, if I had simply known, it would have been so much easier.
So for my children, they will know about all kinds of diverse families. I want them to be able to ask me questions, to talk about different families, and not be confused about a friend’s family that may not look like ours.